Friday, March 7, 2014

notes from Australia


  1. It was a little bizarre watching the superbowl in Australia at 9am. I don't really have a problem with American patriotism (to the extent that our national identity is one of respect and opportunity equally for all, I think that's something to be proud of. Other crap masquerading as patriotism is obviously more irritating, but so is the snobby anti-patriotism of the upper-middle-class left.) but it's a bit self-consciousness inducing to watch your national anthem played over a 100 yard American flag from another country.
  2. Australian people take "friendly" to a new level. Not just polite and helpful, but gratuitously smiley. Even the taxi drivers, hotel receptionists, fast food order takers, and any other menial laborers that probably hate their jobs, smile and say hello unpromptedly and joke around with you and generally seem inexplicably cheerful. It's fantastic. Kinda similar to middle-America friendliness, except I'm not worried about being found out as a dirty liberal atheist.
  3. They're so friendly and cheerful, in fact, that it felt downright oppressive to interact with anyone the one evening when I was walking around Brisbane depressed about some job market developments.
  4. They're also very welcoming to foreigners. I get the impression that they like you just for having the sense to come visit. And they apparently think American accents are funny, instead of being an immediate signal of brash loud obnoxiousness that Europeans take it as. A lot of them also apparently think American are nicer than Australians, which is pretty hilarious, but maybe those are the ones who visited the non-coasts. One definitely was, actually; I ran into an Australian girl who of all things had previously lived in Oklahoma City when her boyfriend lived there.
  5. I don't understand how, but someone the descendents of British convicts ended up vastly nicer people than the Brits themselves.
  6. How on earth did "breakfast" become "brekkie"? I crack up every time I see or hear that.
  7. I don't understand why Australian schools have trouble recruiting American faculty. The salaries aren't as high, but comparable or higher than Europe, and several departments (like UQ :) are quite highly ranked globally. And c'mon, where in the world would you rather live?
  8. I looove the accent! The vowels are mostly inimitable tripthongs.

6 comments:

  1. "I don't understand how, but someone the descendents of British convicts ended up vastly nicer people than the Brits themselves." It's probably to do with the weather, and not taking themselves seriously because of the convict thing.

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  2. Ahem, let's hope you never thought that criminals had a special set of genes from their forebears. Although genetics probably does play a very minor role, it's certainly trumped x-fold by environmental factors (like the weather!).

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  3. Yes, go UQ Department of Economics (and Commerce) !

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  4. (7) is an interesting question. I think that there are several factors at play. One is that, because of the sheer number of universities, Americans have no reason early in their graduate career to contemplate leaving the US, and suddenly deciding to leave the country at the age of 26 or so requires a certain amount of chutzpah. (In this way, it is harder psychologically for an American to come to Australia than [say] for an Australian to go the the US, because the idea of going to the US as an Australian academic is part of the culture right from the beginning of your career.) A second reason is that, until somewhat recently, Australian universities have not aggressively tried to recruit people from the US market, having been content to wait for Australians overseas who wanted to return. This is also related to the fact that, just by virtue of technological advances, Australia is far less isolated (academically) than it was (say) 30 or even 20 years ago. Thirdly, Americans don't seem to have much conception that Australia could be a nice place to live. Finally, if how nice a place is to live had anything to do with it, the entire faculty of Princeton would all leave immediately.

    (BTW, I found this blog because David Savitt "liked" a post you made on Facebook. So I don't know if you actually are American, or whether you are instead from somewhere else (say Dutch, or Canadian), which would make it much more likely that you would consider jobs in places other than Australia. Perhaps a Bayesian might guess the latter, given the final outcome.

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    Replies
    1. I am American, so I'm going to take your comment about chutzpah as a compliment :) I suspect that the psychological barrier is more important than lack of information though, since nearly everyone I tell I'm moving to Australia seems to think it's a fantastic idea and/or is jealous. But maybe that psychological barrier will crumble as things like skype make geography less and less relevant.

      By the way, I like your blog a lot! I wish I remembered/knew enough math to understand more of the technical stuff, but perhaps I'll pick up something by reading it.

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